|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the noon briefing.
**Noon Briefing Guest Today
Good afternoon, Kinshasa; can you hear me?
Moustapha Soumaré, Humanitarian Coordinator, Democratic Republic of the Congo: Yes, we can hear you, loud and clear.
Deputy Spokesperson: Good. Well, our guest today is Moustapha Soumaré, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is briefing us from Kinshasa via video link and he will be addressing the humanitarian situation in the Congo, especially the Kivus.
So, Mr. Soumaré, please go ahead, the floor is yours. Make your presentation and then we will ask the audience if they have any questions.
[Press conference by Mr. Soumaré issued separately]
Ladies and gentlemen, I will now make a few announcements, and then take a few questions.
The Secretary-General spoke at an event this morning marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and he said that Israelis and Palestinians must break out of a zero-sum mentality and embrace a peaceful path forward. That is the best hope for both peoples.
Noting the vote taking place this afternoon in the General Assembly on Non-Member Observer State status at the UN, the Secretary-General said the question is a matter for United Nations Member States to decide. It is important for all concerned to approach this responsibly and constructively.
He added that efforts should be focused on preserving the commendable achievements of the Palestinian Authority on the ground and on re-launching meaningful negotiations, which are the only way to resolve all permanent status issues. He called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to breathe new life into the peace process, which is now on life support.
**Security Council — Iraq
Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, told the Security Council this morning that the strained relations between Iraq's political leaders that have endured throughout the year continue. One manifestation of this, he said, is the Arab-Kurdish rift. The lack of trust stems from a number of pending issues of contention, including power sharing, security and tense relations between the central Government and the region of Kurdistan.
Mr. Kobler noted improvements in the relationship between Iraq and Kuwait and welcomed these steps. He also appealed to the Government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular on missing persons and property.
And he reiterated the Secretary-General's appeal to Member States to offer resettlement opportunities to former residents of Camp Ashraf. Without such an undertaking, there can be no sustainable solution for the residents.
We have his remarks in our office.
**Security Council — Syria
The Security Council heard a briefing in consultations today by Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, and he spoke to reporters after that briefing ended.
In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General condemned in the strongest possible terms the terrorist bombings in Damascus that took place earlier that day, which have left dozens killed and injured. There are no circumstances that justify the targeting of civilians. Such terror attacks are unacceptable. The Secretary-General is deeply saddened and expresses his condolences to the families of the victims.
This latest act of violence only underscores the urgency of stopping the destructive spiral of war in Syria and moving urgently towards a peaceful political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
The Secretary-General and Lakhdar Brahimi will both brief the General Assembly on Syria tomorrow.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) is closely monitoring M23 armed group movements, covering all important entry and exit routes into Goma.
Reports indicate movements of small groups of M23 troops in and out of Goma, but the Mission has not yet been able to ascertain whether there is a net reduction of M23 troops in the city. There are, however, several reports of M23 movement from locations in the Masisi territory.
The Mission is also planning aerial reconnaissance to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire.
Following this briefing, at 12:30 — in a few minutes — there will be a press conference by Bertil Lindblad, the Director of the New York Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Michael Schreiber, the Managing Director and Co-President of GBC Health, to mark World AIDS Day, which will be observed on 1 December.
And tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference by Maged Abdelaziz, the Special Adviser on Africa.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I heard you just make a reference to aerial reconnaissance; could you elaborate on that? Does that consist of any drone activities, or just pre-existing reconnaissance with…?
Deputy Spokesperson: To the best of my knowledge it is pre-existing. Matthew?
Question: Sure, yeah, I wanted to, if you don’t… I have one more… DRC question that wasn’t humanitarian, but I wanted to ask you. The, the new head of FARDC is reported and shown on film as flying into Minova and rallying some 2,000 FARDC troops and basically saying he has been authorized by Kinshasa to go to war, he has made various statements against Rwanda, about Rwanda, and I wonder, given the UN’s… I know that, that Ms. Malcorra had flown to Goma, there is some UN Secretariat involvement in this, do they think that those, those comments are, are consistent with the Kampala communiqué? And what do they think of, of, of the army revving up? Should they be in fact fighting M23 or was this, in fact, a kind of a ceasefire agreement that was announced from Kampala?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we have seen he reports on what the general may have said; we have no confirmation that he actually said it. We are looking into that. With respect to what happened in Kampala, there was a consensus there as to what should take place: that the M23 should withdraw to other positions; that there should be a neutral zone; that there should be patrols in the neutral area and the Secretary-General continues to stand by that.
Correspondent: Right, so, it’s a, I mean it is on film, so I am sure you will see it, but so, a statement by the Congolese army that they are going to take the war to M23 would seem to be inconsistent with, with the way you are saying it, and I am just trying to [inaudible] for your understanding.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to see. Like I said, I can’t comment on a film that I haven’t; that we haven’t seen. Anything else, ladies and gentlemen? Sir?
Question: [inaudible] open or closed?
Deputy Spokesperson: I believe the Secretary-General’s will be open and then they will have a closed session afterwards. But, you’d have to check with the President, with the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly. Yes?
Question: Will it be held in the General Assembly Hall?
Deputy Spokesperson: I believe so, yes. I am not sure, we’ll have to check. I don’t have that information, but I believe it would be…
Question: And in the morning?
Deputy Spokesperson: …in the, in… I believe it is in the morning, yes.
Question: Isn’t that somewhat unusual? I mean, closed sessions in the Security Council are very common, but it doesn’t often happen in the GA [inaudible]…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, like I said, you should check with the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly; they will have all the logistical information as to how this is taking place, when it is taking place and how, and who is going to be doing what. Okay? Matthew?
Question: I want to ask you something about Darfur and also Somaliland, the, the, the Governor of, of, of North Darfur, Osman Kibir, has, has apparently said publicly — it has been reported in, in Sudan — to UNAMID that, that, he disagrees with the, their, a strategy they have adopted and, and views it as a violation of sovereignty and basically is, is, I don’t know if he, as a regional person, has the ability to throw UNAMID out, but there is an, basically a challenge to UNAMID’s authority within North Darfur to protect civilians, and I am wondering if there is a UN response to this?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, UNAMID’s authority comes from the mandate given to it by the Security Council.
Correspondent: Sure, so…
Deputy Spokesperson: So, that’s basically the position we take.
Question: Right, so there is, I mean, well, maybe they will have something, I am just curious. There didn’t seem to be any UN, normally if, if a regional, you know, he’s, he’s the, he’s the Governor of North Darfur says, and seems to make threats against peacekeepers, there is some response from the UN. Maybe there is, maybe it is taking a while, or maybe… has there been any [inaudible]…?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, I’ll have to check with DPKO to see if there is a response from the DPKO side of it, but like I said, the mandate that they have in Sudan is basically a Security Council.
Question: Sure, and the other, I am thinking, and, I wanted to ask you this yesterday and you may have something prepared on it, there has been a rift between Mr. Mahiga, the envoy in, in Somalia and Somaliland. The, he essentially… uh… uh… in any, any case, they said that the UN shouldn’t even come to Somaliland any more, given things that he said. What’s the explanation and, and, what is the UN’s view of Somaliland, is it, and it’s very, it’s claims to, to sovereignty within the Somali system?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to find out what the actual reaction to whatever they said about Mr. Mahiga is. But, the situation is that Mr. Mahiga continues to be there.
Question: Yes, concerns have been raised by some human rights activists in Sri Lanka about an impeachment proceeding that I believe has been brought against the Chief Justice there, and a potential threat to judicial independence, such as it exists there. Has the Secretary-General made any, have any opinion or comment on this? Is he aware of this controversy?
Deputy Spokesperson: We are keeping an eye on the situation in Sri Lanka from a variety of points of view, and the Secretary-General is fully informed of what is going on. If, if and when we have something to say…
Question: To your knowledge, he hasn’t specifically addressed that [inaudible]…
Deputy Spokesperson: He hasn’t specifically made a statement on it, no.
Question: Have there been any steps taken on that, on that Petrie report? I know that I asked this before, but it seemed like there is a lot of interest at the, at the time, and it was said that a panel would be set up and something would come of this rele… this pretty damning report about the UN’s own performance. Ban Ki-moon was quoted it won’t, it won’t happen again. What has been done since the report came out?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Ms. Malcorra was here and she briefed you, and said that they were setting up a study of what happened and how it was going to be addressed, and that is under way.
Question: Who is on it? Have they chosen the members of this yet?
Deputy Spokesperson: I can’t comment any more than what I have said. Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record